Well, that was close.
Thank God I managed to restore my culture vulture sanity ever so slightly with a lucky lurch to London before the latest lingering Lockdown kicked in.
Finally got to glimpse the genius of Mr Andrew Warhola at the Tate Modern, a much-missed Mother’s Day present that was brutally blitzed by that crafty Corona Virus back in March.
Who knew twelve months ago, after the surrealist, and sweetest Birthday ever, that I would go from kissing and cwtching my Modfather to standing socially-distanced staring at the wonder of Warhol in a funky face covering…after a zap on the forehead with a thermometer.
We made it though, to a Covid-19 compliant Tate, that still managed to superbly showcase the work of the shy, gay, man who became one of the world’s most infamous, and influential artists.
I’ve long admired Warhol, his pop art, his connection to that all-time top trilogy David, Lou and Iggy, and his place in history during a time of immense political, sociological, and technological change.
This exhibition drew attention to that, but also to his personal story and how this affected his view of the world, and his art.
Split into twelve sections from cradle to grave, we moved through his struggle at the start when he was considered ‘too camp’ and too connected to advertising, right up to his death on February 22nd 1987, aged just 58.
I’m always fascinated by back story so was mesmerised by the Pennsylvania lad’s life, via commercial illustration, to the Warhol, viewed by many as weird. Questions quickly answered by before a move into seeing how he used his intimate personal relationships to create new ways of looking at the world. The film Sleep showing His brief lover, the poet John Giorno, turns a movie into abstract art with a dream-like feel.
Pop Art, probably what Warhol is most famous for, made it for me. I’ve always, probably predictably, wanted to see that Campbell’s soup tin in real life, as well as his interpretation of two of my top icons, Marilyn Monroe, and Debbie Harry. Bucket list ticked, and I was certainly not disappointed.
Neither was I either, by The Factory section, that is already well-documented as the experimental art studio and social space that built both the magnitude, and the myth of Warhol. And led to over 500 films, and an artistic phase that led to him drop the brush in favour of celluloid, before he combined the two with The Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
All brutally cut short by writer Valerie Solonas exploiting the open-door Factory atmosphere and shooting Warhol almost to death. An act, played out by the numerous news cuttings at the Exhibition, that affected our artist mentally, physically, and psychologically for the rest of his life.
Although not enough to stay away from Studio 54 scene, and its associated celebrity, with the exhibition showing plenty of pics – including the iconic queen of the scene Grace Jones.
Warhol went back to work though, and for me some of his finest pieces come post-shooting. Ladies and Gentleman, featuring Black and Latinx drag queens and trans women, including Martha P Johnson of Stonewall Riot legacy, is outstanding.
Sixty Last Suppers, one of Warhol’s final works is a moving portrayal of endless loss, as well as a nod to the many gay men who were facing the glare of the media’ intrusion at the height of the AIDS epidemic.
Warhol was not a queer artist, but for me, was still a genius, from his well-known works, his commissioned portraits for the rich and famous, through to the more avant-garde and experimental pieces of work the latter, paid for by the former.
What a fascinating walk through the work of Warhol, and so well worth the wait.
Thank you Tate.
Sue Vincent-Jones, writing as Mrs SVJ, is a Barry born journalist, editor, and communications specialist. She blogs about Barry – and her life in the wider world, through the eyes of a, quirky and queer, local girl done good.
Gig Girl Reviews is where she shows that the world is wider than just our town, all through the eyes of a local girl done good – the gigs, the films, the theatre, the exhibitions, and all things arty.